The Associated Student Government Election Commission gathered early Aug. 25, 2017 in the Student Senate room and decided to disqualify Student President Charlotte Donnay Rochard for breaking election rules last semester.
Rochard was accused of breaking the solicitation rule by approaching students near or on computers in the computer science lab and reminding them to vote, the same rule Student Advocate-Elect Christopher Lee had broken and been disqualified for.
“I had voted yes in the last case with Christopher and Krystle and I knew my logic behind that and I brought that mindset with me to this case,” said Student Trustee David Panbehchi.
The commission was comprised of Panbehchi, Student Advocate Krystle Farmer, Vice President of Internal Affairs Joshua Villanueva, Vice President of External Affairs Matthew Esguerra, and Vice President of Operations and Finance Yeihoon Choi.
Julia Pizza, former News Editor at The Channels, submitted the accusation to the student government early May after discovering that student advocate Christopher Lee had been disqualified for doing the same thing.
Pizza had taken a Snapchat of Rochard walking around the Computer Science lab allegedly telling students to vote and sent it to Editor-in-Chief Alyssa Durant, but did not know at the time it was against the rules thus did not save the snapchat.
She could not attend the meeting in person because she moved, but she sent the Associated Student Government a video testimony.
“For someone to have been disqualified for doing something that she had done, I just don’t think it would be fair for [the student government] not to take this accusation seriously,” Pizza said in her video.
The evidence presented against Charlotte was Pizza’s accusation and video statement, a phone call from Durant and a video accusation from student Stuart Brown saying he had been approached in the library by Rochard and told who to vote for.
Rochard defended herself by bringing in people who spoke well of her character and by making videos of students who had allegedly been in the computer science lab the week of the elections claiming they hadn’t seen her breaking any of the election rules.
Rochard presented four videos with four different people, three of which she admitted were her friends, all saying similar statements including that they spend a lot of time in the lab and that they never saw Rochard campaigning there during election week.
James Howard, a lab teaching assistant for the Computer Science Department, was quoted in a previous Channels article. At the meeting Friday, he called Pizza “unprofessional,” saying he believes she took what he said out of context and that he was explicit that he did not want statements he said to hurt Rochard. However, Howard never told Pizza anything he said was off the record.
Although there was a lack of evidence in the form of pictures or videos against Rochard, the first-hand witnesses of her actions were enough to convince three of the five members of the commission to disqualify the accused president.
“I just looked at both sides and all of her evidence was a logical fallacy, she just brought in people that said that they didn’t see it,” Esguerra said.
Villanueva will take on the role of Interim President while still maintaining his current position until the student government meets to discuss who the successor will be. He voted no against disqualifying Charlotte because he believed Howard’s statement had discredited Pizza’s accusation.
“He is a supervisor, he should know what is happening in the area,” Villanueva said. “If someone is campaigning throughout the area which he said wasn’t happening, then he should know that, but he said that wasn’t happening.”
The formation of the election commission almost never happened because of misunderstandings between Advisor Chris Johnson and the Associated Student Government on the bylaws regarding commission creation after the end of the semester. Panbehchi, Choi and Villanueva helped clear up the confusion by contacting Lorenzo R. Cuesta, a Parliamentarian who trains student governments in legal and procedural acts and rules. With Cuesta’s help, they were able to form the election commission which led to Rochard’s removal.